Relegation battle ahead for Ipswich Town

IPSWICH Town's dismal start to the season continued against West Brom in the Coca-Cola Championship at the Hawthorns this evening.

Elvin King

By Elvin King

West Brom 2 Ipswich Town 0

IPSWICH Town's dismal start to the season continued against West Brom in the Coca-Cola Championship at the Hawthorns this evening.

They were well beaten and often out classed, and find themselves in a relegation position with all the pointers indicating that they will be facing a battle to avoid League One this term.

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Albion fans were singing 'Keano's getting sacked in the morning' long before the final whistle.

Youssouf Mulumba opened the scoring in the tenth minute with a low drive and Robert Koren increased the lead seven minutes from the interval.

It if hadn't been for Richard Wright in the visiting goal, the home side would have been out of reach at the interval with the keeper making a succession of fine saves.

Wright continued his heroics after the break with a penalty save in a half when the Blues at times showed some promise with a five-man midfield.

Town made four changes and were led by a new captain after hints by manager Keane that he wanted more leadership on the field - and more character.

Bruce took over the captain's armband after previously doing the job in the Carling Cup at Shrewsbury last week.

McAuley, the club captain for the past 25 months, was dropped to the bench along with Priskin, Delaney and Healy - the latter two not travelling to the midlands last night as Keane rang the changes.

In came David Wright, Smith, to play left back, Garvan and Stead. Martin was the only one of Keane's summer signings to start the game. A fit-again Couango and young Upson were on the bench along with keeper Arran Lee-Barrett the Ipswich-born player, who was signed as cover for the departed Supple last night and played most of the season for Hartlepool last term.

For the Baggies, who were relegated from the Premier League in May, Cummings made his home debut with the match shown live on Sky Sports TV.

It was a mild summer's evening in the west midlands with the cricket ground across the road more suitable for these weather conditions.

In the fourth minute Brunt had ample space to cross accurately from the right, and Koren got in a downward header that R Wright stretched to get down to and finger tip away a yard in front of his goal line.

Six minutes later Cummings was alone by the by-line with time to usher his team mates in position. His centre was cleared for a corner, and the home team took the lead before this could be properly cleared.

Olsson saw his glancing header cleared off the line by D Wright - with Stead booting the ball clear. But it only reached Mulumbu who drilled in a low 25-yard shot that beat R Wright to the keeper's right.

West Brom were looking much more organised at this stage, and Town looked stunned. But to their credit they hit back with Stead and then Wickham having headers blocked close in after 12 minutes.

Albion were finding plenty of room down left-back Smith's side, and when they broke in the 20th minute a pile-driver from Brunt was beaten away by R Wright. A minute later Town had a chance to equalise when 16-year-old Wickham burst clear onto Martin's pass.

The youngster took the ball forward before shooting left-footed, but his effort lacked venom and home skipper Carson was able to get down to save comfortably.

After the afternoon matches Ipswich began third from bottom in the table, and they were looking for their first win of the season.

Town were having the majority of possession now, with the home side restricted to counter attacks. In the 31st minute a mistake by Garvan led to an Albion attack and R Wright did well to keep out and angled Moore shot. The keeper did even better to block Cech's follow-up effort, but this was academic anyway as an offside flag was up for Wood.

Ipswich were playing in an all-red strip, and they had their rather subdued travelling fans in one half of the stand behind them in the opening half.

R Wright held a Brunt cross above his head at the near post as Albion again attacked down their right side before the busy Martin had space against insecure looking home defence, but shot yards wide.

In the 38th minute Town were two goals adrift as their dismal season continued. Balkestein had time to clear but was wrestled off the ball by Moore. Wood took possession and played a pin-point pass between two Town defenders for Koren to run clear, round R Wright and score high into an unguarded net.

R Wright then did well to keep out a Wood snap shot with Ipswich now in danger of conceding a cricket score. A poor back pass by Garvan saw Moore go racing clear with R Wright rushing half way to the half-way line to just get there first and boot clear.

A minute later - in the 44th minute - Wood was again in space, and again R Wright was up to the task with a brilliant full length fingertip save to his left.

Ipswich bolstered their midfield with the half-time substitutions of Quinn and Colback, who was making his Town league debut. It was no surprise to see a badly out of form Garvan not re-appear.

In the 49th minute they could easily have scored. D Wright's deep cross saw Quinn get in an effort that struck Carson, and from the rebound Trotter saw his follow-up effort beaten away by a relieved keeper.

With Martin playing just behind lone striker Wickham Ipswich were looking much more a threat now and their cause was helped when an injured Brunt limped off.

The 56th minute saw Moore break clear down the left with R Wright equal to his angled drive. It was an eventful contest with Carson diving full length to tip round a 22-yard Walters effort.

Keeper R Wright was at it again in the 66th minute coming out of goal to block after substitute Thomas had broken free. Within seconds Balkestein forced a save from Carson following a free-kick, and from the resultant corner he blazed a header two foot wide.

The pressure Smith was under showed when he tripped Cummings as the full back raided forward. Moore took the 74th minute penalty with R Wright saving a weak straight kick with his foot. Moore's follow-up effort was even worse than his spot kick, and Town were able to clear.


West Brom: Carson; Cummings, Martis, Olsson, Mattock (sub Beattie 75 mins); Brunt (Thomas 55), Mulumbu, Koren (Valero 84), Cech; Moore, Wood. Substitutes: Kiely, Barnett, Reid, Cox.

Ipswich Town: R Wright; D Wright, Bruce, Balkestein, Smith; Martin, Garvan (Colback 46), Trotter, Walters; Wickham (Priskin 71), Stead (Quinn 46). Substitutes: Lee-Barrett, Upson, Counago, McAuley.

Referee: Mr S Tanner (Somerset)

Attendance: 19,390